Archive for July, 2011

Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *But Were Afraid to Ask (Woody Allen) 1972

Posted in E, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 28, 2011 by moviemoses

Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *But Were Afraid to Ask is tied along side The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain as the most annoyingly long titles in movie history. Actually I would give the edge to this movie because of the punctuation. It is one thing to shorten a title like TISCWSLaBMUZ but quite another to add asterisks. Seriously, it can’t be shortened. You can’t say ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA. Seriously, fuck you Woody Allen.

Movie title humor aside, ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA is named after the book it is based on also titled ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA. The book was a nonfiction book which was, at that time, THE book people read about sex and answering common questions. The rights were held for a while but no one could figure out how exactly to translate this to film. Woody Allen made this as a collection of comedy short films based off of questions in the book. Each of these shorts are roughly 10-15 minutes but there are exceptions.

I keep referencing Take the Money and Run but once again I think it highlights the problem with a structure like ETYAWtKAS* *BWAtA. When you are telling rapid fire jokes, it is okay if several fall flat because you quickly move onto something that works for the audience. With this film, I have yet to see someone that loves every one of the short films. Eventually there is going to be one which either isn’t as good as the others or just isn’t funny for you and you are trapped for the next 10-15 minutes in an unfunny bit. One short I absolutely hated was when Woody tried to parody an Italian sex farce complete by having all the characters speaking Italian with no subtitles. For the first minute I thought to myself “That’s cute, he is trying to mock Fellini and whatnot” but then dragged on and on and on.

Another problem could be that the joke runs out of steam before the short is actually over. That was the problem I had with the Gene Wilder sketch. In that one, Wilder is a doctor who tries to help a patient who has fallen in love with a sheep. Wilder falls for the sheep and his life goes downhill from there. The sketch is funny, but again after fifteen or so minutes it was played out. This is something that Monty Python would have perfectly timed in a short five minute sketch or so.

That being said, I think there is still plenty that people will enjoy and that the positives outweigh the negatives. Even though some sketches didn’t work with me, I was still laughing a lot at the other ones. My favorites have to be the mad sex scientist (played by John Carradine of course) who releases a giant tit on the world and the sketch of the inside of the human body which is run by little people (and a tiny Burt Reynolds). For me this film is lower than Take the Money and Run and Bananas (so far in my Allen retrospective) but it is still a very funny movie. Anyone that is a fan of Woody’s early comedy I think will really like this movie.  Up next on the Woody retrospective is Sleeper.

Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) Troy Duffy

Posted in B on July 26, 2011 by moviemoses

Production Budget: $8 million

Worldwide Gross: $10 million

I can remember the first time I saw Boondock Saints.  I was going through my local Blockbuster (before most of them closed) and the typical busy body clerk suggested I check out this (for all intents and purposes) direct to video movie called Boondock Saints.  The guy was practically selling this like some lost treasure of the aisles of Blockbuster.  My expectations being at rock bottom levels because up to that point all DTV rentals were absolute shit, I was surprised to find out this one was actually alright.  Don’t get me wrong, Duffy was trying way too hard at being a derivative Quentin Tarantino (which some may argue is derivative of everyone else but that is another discussion).  In addition, the movie was juvenile, misogynistic, crude, offensive, and its morality so childish it should be written in crayon.  But the movie was well made, the actors were giving it their all to sell the material, the action was fine, and at times the script was so moronic it actually made you chuckle.  It was a far cry from most DTV movies where it just seems like the filmmakers are phoning it in.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a crap movie, but I can see people liking this as a kind of guilty pleasure.

That leads to the overpraise and backlash of this movie on the internet.  I hate to use the word “overrated” just because I think it is a trollish term.  I think one of the criteria of being a film snob is being able to call most of the films on the AFI Top 100 as overrated whilst simultaneously masturbating to Andrei Tarkovsky.  But there are a few films where I simply cannot get the praise for.  One of which is Scarface.  I can’t tell you how many teens I see with Scarface swag all over the place.  It also seems like a movie for posers so they seem like manly men to all their friends.  There is something about a guy who proudly proclaims Scarface is his favorite movie that makes me think they secretly have Sleepless in Seattle hiding in their bedroom.  Anyway, another movie that got overblown is of course Boondock Saints.  I swear, listening to some people this is the best guy movie ever and the greatest thing since sliced bread, and yada yada yada.  It is talk like that which makes you want to take back all the nice things you said about the movie in the first place to slap them down and tell them how epically wrong they truly are.  But it is now a half page on my word processor and I still haven’t gotten to the movie I am actually reviewing.

So with all the success it had on video sales, why wasn’t Miramax clamoring for a sequel.  Well if you have seen the documentary about the making of the film called “Overnight” (which is a much much more entertaining movie than Boondock Saints IMO), you get a pretty clear answer.  Troy Duffy is a complete egomaniac.  The person thought he was Steven Spielberg from day one of shooting and he had no problem with burning non-existent bridges with people and pissing everyone off in the industry.  I thought Boondock Saints II had about as much chance of being made as there being another Billy Jack movie.  I was wrong as ten years later they finally gave director Duffy the opportunity to direct a sequel.

So what is this sequel about?  Nothing really.  The story is about the Saints coming out of retirement (why they are in retirement I dunno) when a priest is killed in Boston with the same MO as the Saints.  Someone from the Saints or Poppa’s past wants them to come back to Boston and the Saints are looking to kill a lot more bad guys.  One problem is this plot really makes no sense when you learn all the details.  It makes no sense that Poppa wouldn’t try to get revenge on the person that put him in prison for the ten years since the first movie and it doesn’t make any sense why the mysterious bad guy drags the Saints back to Boston.  And yes, I know I am harping on the plot of Boondock Saints freaking 2 but hear me out.  Duffy had ten years to come up with a sequel and to basically prove himself to all his doubters and the best he could do is a stale as hell remake of the first movie that somehow makes even less sense than the original.  Is it so much to ask that something…ANYTHING is added to a sequel ten years after the last one?

It really is sad that Duffy has to recycle plot points and lame humor from the first movie like trying to push out ten year old left overs as fine cuisine.  All of the somewhat memorable scenes are paraded back out again to much groans of the audience.  Hey Duffy, if I wanted to see the first movie I would watch the first movie!  Even death doesn’t stop the director from going back to the well as we get several scenes of Rocco doing completely pointless crap.

The one person they couldn’t really get back was Willem Dafoe’s character and even for that they made a carbon copy in the role of Eunice (Julie Benz).  I actually really like Julie Benz but here she actually has the most annoying role in the movie by far (and for Boondock Saints that’s saying something).  She has the most over the top Texan drawl that she drones on for what seems like endless scenes of her talking and talking and talking.  They might as well have dressed her up like Annie Oakley and had her twirling a six shooter.  Oh wait, they did.  I fucking hate this movie.  The crappiness is compounded by the horrible script writing.  The “witty” dialog damn near unbearable as it seems like you got a group of braindead monkeys all hammering on typewriters trying to recreate a Quentin Tarantino script and the director using whatever draft came out first.  This humor makes Family Guy seem like Annie Hall. One of the people’s names in this movie is Kuntsler.  If you can guess the joke they say five seconds after revealing that then you shouldn’t be watching this movie because that is the height of wit and cleverness being used in the humor.  Seriously, this movie is one step away from naming the bad guy Norman Imastupiddickheadasshole.  Ridiculous right?  I mean, who names their kid Norman nowadays?

The rest of the humor is the typical misogynistic, racist, frat boy type humor you got from the first movie but also less inspired.  There is also a lot of homosexual humor in this movie.  I’m not saying you can’t do any of those jokes, but there is so much of it, it is actually distracting.  It really makes you wonder what kind of hang ups the director really has.

I don’t know how much else I can really elaborate on how much this sucks without people thinking I’m just straight up picking on it.  Even by judging the movie by the original’s standards I don’t think it is that good.  Saints II, in addition to being dumber and more cartoonish, is just derivative of itself.  It is a crappy repackaging of the shit we have already seen in the original with no attempts at bringing anything new to the table.  I think most fans of the original will already have seen this and own it on Blu Ray but for anyone else familiar or unfamiliar with the series, stay far far away from this movie.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (David Yates) 2011 NO SPOILERS

Posted in H on July 21, 2011 by moviemoses

I didn’t really write a review for Part One for one reason. That reason being Deathly Hallows Part One is not a movie. I can’t really judge it on its own merits because I am only watching half a movie. Part Two does work a little bit better in that, where One was all build up with no resolution, at least Part Two obviously wraps up all the loose plot threads (redundant statement is redundant). So with all my useless discussion about a never written review out of the way and my ramblings, do I think the movie works best separated into two parts? Well, no.

I still feel this movie could have been a great complete film that was somewhere over three and a half hours. Of course I understand why the filmmakers split the movie into two parts and it is not just about the fact they wanted to make more money. It is because there is a lot of material here and the director probably thought this was the best way to satisfy both normal fans and fans of the books. And before I’m accused of being so unreasonable and wanting to chop up the movies into some mess I want to put into evidence the LOTR movies; both theatrical and Extended Editions. I think the theatrical cuts are perfectly paced to include all relevant information about the plot and make it as exciting as possible. The Extended Editions are the perfect fan service package. Each movie has deleted scenes adding anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of new footage which is perfect for hardcore fans of the series. I think Deathly Hallows could have been a great three and a half hour movie for everyone with the EE’s being an hour longer to satisfy the more hardcore Potter fans.

But for all of my griping, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is still a great conclusion to the series overall. Everything we expect from wrapping up all plots to closing all character arcs are done very well. This movie gives us the satisfying closure we all want. Most of Part Two is action and it is very exciting. The battles are all epic in scale with very good special effects and the series has always done a great job in giving us characters we really care about. I can’t really go into whether the movie follows the books because I never got that far in the series.

It is not like you need me to tell you to go see this movie. If you are this movie’s target audience then you probably already have gone out and seen it. Among all the Potter films, Deathly Hallows does rank among the best in the series for me. I think this movie would be entertaining to anyone even remotely familiar with the series. Yes I do have minor problems with the film and some decisions here or there, but they are all minor. Plus I actually don’t know if it would be fair since some of those problems might lie with Rowling’s original story but you don’t need to worry about that. If you can’t figure it out by now, I highly recommend the movie.

Bananas (Woody Allen) 1971

Posted in B, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 19, 2011 by moviemoses

Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) falls in love with a ditzy activist who quickly dumps him. Mellish, trying to prove himself to her, moves to San Marcos and joins a rebel force set on overthrowing the corrupt president.

This is another of Woody’s screwball comedies. Some want to place this among his best of the wacky comedies he does, I think this is a little more inconsistent. This is going to be a little hard to talk about since comedy is a more subjective experience than anything else. Some people prefer Bananas, some love Take the Money and Run more, some love Sleeper, and so on. I think I’m picking nits when discussing why I didn’t like this movie as much as other Woody movies of this type.

To me this movie feels a little more inconsistent than Take the Money and Run. The humor seems to go even broader as Woody will go from paying homage to Chaplin and Buster Keaton, to sex humor, to slapstick, to light political satire, to screwball and so on. I mentioned that the mockumentary style helped tie everything the comedy scenes nicely together, while the plot of Bananas seems more meandering. There are also some bigger dry spots in the comedy than in Money. I also found the soundtrack to be more annoying than cute.

That being said, Bananas is an enjoyable film and, again, I can see this is more a matter of personal preference than anything else. There are some really memorable moments like Howard Cossel doing play by play of a political assassination and the trial of Fielding at the end. Also at a very quick 80 minutes, Woody knows not to overstay his welcome and delivers his routine at just the right pace. Another funny movie from Woody that is recommended. Up next is Every Thing you Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask.

Take the Money and Run (Woody Allen) 1969

Posted in T, Woody Allen Retrospective on July 19, 2011 by moviemoses

Now we get to Allen’s true debut as a director. In actuality, Allen didn’t want to direct this movie but eventually did take control when he couldn’t get the director he wanted. Continuing with the innovation he showed with Tiger Lily and its format, in this movie he makes what is cited as the first widely released “mockumentary”. Now I’m not sure about that claim but I will say he was one of the first. The movie is shot as a documentary about Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen). He is an inept criminal but the narrator plays like he is one of the most ruthless bank robber in history.

There really isn’t much of a plot to be had as this feels like a string of comedy shorts. I’m actually not saying that as a bad thing. The mockumentary approach works well as it feels natural the fake filmmakers are highlighting the big moments in Virgil’s life. It also works well in a comedy sense in that the jokes are told in a rapid fire pace so if one bit doesn’t work we quickly move onto the next sketch.

We also for the first time see Allen’s trademark “nebbish” behavior. I think its so trademark I swear the word “nebbish” was created just for Woody Allen cause that is the only time I hear it. This character is a true love him or hate him, and the people that hate him REALLY hate him. I will admit, the prototypical Allen character was a reason I stayed away from his movies for so long. It took me a while for me to warm up to that brand of comedy and where he was coming from. To me, it is the comedic equivalent of an acquired taste.

Even though we get Allen’s nebbish character, Take the Money and Run doesn’t have the usual intellectual humor we come to expect from Allen. This movie is more general with its humor with puns, verbal humor, and even physical humor. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I found much of the movie to be hilarious. As I mentioned earlier, the movie is so quick with it’s jokes that even if you don’t care for a few, Allen throws about ten in the span of a minute. It kind of feels like a Monty Python Flying Circus themed episode with all the sketches matching a loose theme.

This movie isn’t perfect. It is his first movie and it does feel very raw. Allen still has a lot to learn before we get to the likes of say Manhattan. I also hear the movie had to be saved by the editor because the initial cut was getting very bad reactions. Allen would then retain this same editor for many of his next movies. Overall this is a very fun movie. It is an unpolished gem from Allen who shows his talents as a comedy writer. Accessible to everyone and runs at a blistering 80 minutes I recommend this movie. Next up on my review of Allen’s filmography is Bananas.

Final Storm (Uwe Boll) 2010 SPOILERS

Posted in F on July 15, 2011 by moviemoses

Final Storm is about what appears to be the Biblical end of the world.  Strange events are happening all over the world as well as the temperature everywhere dropping to freezing levels.  A strange man with amnesia named Silas (Luke Perry) stumbles into the farm of Tom and Gillian.  Silas helps out on the farm but there is the mystery of what is going on outside the farm and who Silas really is.

This movie does feel different from other Boll fare in that in Final Storm he doesn’t feel the need to shock the audience.  For example in Seed we had real animal torture, in Stoic we had rape with a broomstick, in Postal we had 9/11 humor and other gag inducing “humor, and in Rampage we had 90 minutes of pure slaughter (just to name a few).  I actually liked the fact Boll for once wanted to calm down and tell a more conventional story.  It’s too bad that still after all these years he’s still not good at that.

The problem with this movie (or one of them at least) is none of these characters are likable.  Tom is a drunk who flies off the handle, Gillian is an annoying woman with no common sense, and we are not really told anything about Silas other than get the vibe he is a creepy bastard.  And shock of all shocks, in the end we learn that the creepy hobo who is leering at Tom’s wife is a killer.  Who would have thought!?  So we are stuck in this movie the whole time with people we don’t like and all they do is bicker and argue.

Then we get into the issue of the story.  It makes no sense.  In the end we learn Sideshow Luke Perry was a former resident of the farm and he wants it back.  In the climactic battle Tom kills Silas and the movie ends with the literal Rapture happening.  I’m not even complaining about this movie because I’m an atheist (because I don’t care what a fictional movie portrays).  I am complaining about the fact this ending and the movie really doesn’t make sense.  I have heard one person try to salvage the movie by saying Silas represents sin and that the final battle was more symbolic of them defeating sin.  But that really doesn’t work.  It’s not like these people really become any better people than they were before: Gillian was still tempted into jumping Luke Perry’s bones, Tom is still a drunk asshole, and their son is still annoying.  Plus, and this is the most important part, none of these events make the family believe in God (which is an important doctrine in Christianity).  Directly before the final confrontation, Silas quotes Revelation and Tom replies that he doesn’t believe in “fairy tales” and indicates he doesn’t believe the events outside represent the end of the world as per Revelation.  So if Tom and his family do not believe in the Bible and don’t really become better people, how is this considered a win for the family?  Can we even say Silas was sent by God or can we just say he was the wrong dude at the wrong time?  Did every family on Earth get their own Silas to defeat before the Rapture came?  I’m so confused.

For the most part the movie is slow.  Boll tries to go for quiet dread, but we aren’t really given anything to fear.  Even the reveal that Luke Perry is evil comes off as a whimper instead of a bang and Silas doesn’t really carry any dread with him.  So again, we have a movie with unlikable characters, a thriller with no tension, and a plot that makes no sense.  For as much as I want to praise him for going straight in this movie, I still can’t forgive the film for all of its faults.  This movie isn’t offensively bad or even hilariously bad like other Boll films.  This movie just plain sucks and I can’t recommend it to anyone.

 

13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) 2010

Posted in T on July 12, 2011 by moviemoses

13 Assassins is set in the final days of the samurai. Aging samurai Shinzaemon is hired to kill an evil lord before he gains any more power. He gets together a group of assassins to strike when he is en route to his home kingdom because his protection will be at his weakest (relatively speaking anyway).

I guess this film can be most likened to Seven Samurai, in which the first half is establishing the environment, assembling our team, and constructing a plan. The second half is the confrontation but instead of bandits, it is a lord with army protection.

I hate to say this is Miike’s most mainstream film cause it may sound like he is phoning in this movie. I only mean it in the sense the plot is more straightforward than anything else Miike has done so far. Even though the story is straightforward, Miike uses all his talents to make it as enjoyable as possible. The landscapes are beautifully shot, the action is perfectly staged, and there is still that gore you come to expect from a Miike film.

The best part of this movie is, by far, the climactic end battle between the 13 assassins and the massive force the lord has. This action scene goes on for a long time and is just great. There are so many downright badass scenes as Shinzaemon’s plan comes together. Everything is just shot so well and the scene is established so precisely that it is exciting from beginning to end. Miike does a hell of a job here.

If I were to have gripes about 13 Assassins it would be mainly stemming from the first half. It does drag just a tad and without seeing it again I can’t really explain why so I’ll apologize for not being as descriptive as I usually am. I also feel like they don’t do as well as they could in developing the characters more. We spend so much time finding the titular 13 assassins that we don’t really get to know them as people before the main showdown.

Those complaints are relatively small compared to the film as a whole. Overall this is a beautifully shot, well acted, and very exciting samurai film. I think this film is accessible to everyone and is well worth the watch. Highly recommended.